Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Racing Down "The Long and Winding Road" to Publication (with Scenic Stops)

Last Sunday I had a new-to-me experience and one I will not soon forget.

I did my first biking mini-marathon.

Fifteen miles, two friends, and a mini-cheer squad.

The whole experience was absolutely cathartic.

I learned so much about myself and even a bit about my writing along the way.

I doubted I would make the finish line. I thought perhaps I would need to pick up my bike and walk the rest of the way. In my nightmares I imagined myself reaching the finish line just as everyone else was picking up and heading home for the day.

I pictured myself on the side of the road, lying down as pain rippled through my side. Or perhaps I would have a mini-stroke in the heat...or require a triple bypass surgery the next day.

Are you seeing my optimistic side poking through?

Point being none of these things actually happened.

Instead, I had a great time with my friends as we laughed and enjoyed the ride (and complained about those hills). Leaving the local college, we planned to shoot for a 25 mile route next year.

I realized in that moment, God had helped me to endure the race and I could not only reach my dream but shoot even further, setting the bar even higher for next year.

You see, this girl who was always the clichéd last one picked in gym class, the one who got the "D" in volleyball because she couldn't "set" a ball had ingested some serious lies about herself.

"I'm not an athlete."

"I always embarrass myself when it comes to sports."

"You might be able to do it, but I'm not sure I can hack it."

See, for years I was still "that girl." Why? For one simple reason, I continued to believe those lies.

Are you setting your goals too low?

Are you all but giving up in your writing life?

Maybe, you've received some painful contest feedback. You need to hit the reset button.

The topic you wrote about, you were told, will never fly in the Christian market.

Here are some keys to running your marathon as a writer (whether God calls you to be published or not) with props to the Fab Four:

1) "Eight Days a Week"

The key to any race is practice. How are you doing on the day-to-day endurance? Quality is built in a natural way over time. I'll always remember that The Beatles song "Eight Days a Week" was a commentary on how hard they had to work to reach their goals. Their manager told them he would work them eight days a week until they produced a hit. And sure enough, The Beatles produced dozens of them over a decade. Good luck finding an adult over forty in America who hasn't heard of The Beatles. Mastery comes over 10,000 hours or more, according to statistics. That's a lot of persistence.

2) "Help, I need somebody..."

"When I was younger so much younger than today, I never needed anybody's help in any way. But now those days are gone, I'm not so self-assured. Now I find I need you like I've never done before....won't you please, please, help me."

The more experienced we get in our writing journey, the more we realize how much we need the help of our friends. Not only did my friends run the race with me, they also helped motivate me beforehand. We went on several training rides together. There were times I didn't think I could complete the race, but one of my friends kept encouraging me that I could do it.

In the writing world, I rely on a group of critters that meet at a local Starbucks every other Thursday. We not only read each other's writing and make comments, but we also brainstorm and talk craft. Its invaluable.

There are also wonderful opportunities online to connect with community, the way we as Alleycats have been blessed. ACFW and My Book Therapy are excellent places to meet other believers on the same journey to write for Jesus.

3) "A Hard Day's Night"

"Its been a hard day's night and I've been working like a dog. Its been a hard day's night, I should be sleeping like a log..."

Anyone who has ever put themselves out there with their writing in any way can tell you, its hard. And the risks are high.

Like a good workout, the harder you work the better the reward. Mentally, because you know you can do more than you thought you were capable of with God's help. Physically, working on something that fulfills you is a wonderful source of joy. Keep at it!

4) "Free as a Bird"

"Free as a bird, its the next best thing to be free as a bird..."

Living your calling sets you free. If you are called to write, you'll find an immense sense of joy, his pleasure when you pursue it with all your heart.

Are you living caged or are you living a life of freedom, drawing closer to your dreams? No person can squash those dreams if they are truly God-given.

I found such freedom with the wind on my back, gliding down the other end of the hill, after pedaling up it.

5) "Slow Down"

"You better slow down, baby, cause you're moving much too fast..."

Are you in need of rest and refreshment? How's your devotional life looking? Are you getting 7-9 hours of sleep at night? Exercise? Yes, down time will help you to be a better writer.

If we don't take time to slow down and listen to the silence, how can we even be inspired with ideas? God speaks in those still quiet places and shares His truth so we can share it with others.

Is there anything you need to do to take care of yourself physically and mentally to help you grow in your writing?

How about you? What stage of your marathon are you in? Are you just beginning the race and needing lots of practice? Do you need to build endurance for the long haul? Or perhaps you need to slow down and enjoy the scenery a bit, dusting off the "goodness" of the dream God has placed in you?

Julia enjoys writing women's fiction whenever she can find a chair free of smushed peanut butter sandwiches and lego blocks. She is a wife and homeschooling mama of two littles. She also enjoys reviewing and writing for Library Journal and the blog Wonderfully Woven.


Joan Hall said...

Love this post (and I loved the Beatles). I remember all those songs.

Very sound advice, Julia.

Joan Hall said...
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Joan Hall said...
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Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Love this Jules!!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Now I've got Beatles' songs floating through my head! :)

Great post, Julia. Your points make a lot of sense. And your steps are a great way to overcome some of those lies I believe about myself.

Love this!

Ashley Clark said...

Jules, you are so wise! Loved this Beatles-themed post! I could hear all the songs in my head as I read them. Lately for whatever reason, I have been struggling with a routine devotion time. There's no real excuse for it, I just don't take the time to do it. So I've been working on getting back in that good habit lately. I also NEED to work more on physical exercise. You are right-- it is AMAZING how our mood and everything else is improved when we exercise our bodies. Great post!!!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Ashley, So true! I've had the same struggles , probably why habit building keeps making its way into my posts.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

I'm so impressed that you did this!!! You're my hero! Totally relating to being the last-picked for gym class and how that shapes what you believe about yourself! Great post as always!